Trail Association Learns of Possible Grants

ST.CLAIRSVILLE – The first annual Ohio Valley Trail Association fundraising banquet held at Undo’s Restaurant on March 19 was a great success. Nearly 100 area supporters attended including Belmont County Commissioners Ginny Favede and Matt Coffland, Belmont County Tourism Director Doc Householder, and Barnesville Village Councilman Tim McKelvey.

Also present were members of the area organizations that have joined together to create the association including the Barnesville Area Rails to Trails Committee, the Ohio Valley Riverfront Development Committee, the Ohio Valley Trail Partners, the Ohio Valley Walkers and Runners, and the Brooke County Pioneer Trail Committee.

The association, formed just six months ago, had good news for those in attendance. Danny Popp, chairman of the Ohio Valley Riverfront Development Committee, announced the group had been selected to receive funding for acquiring a 4.5- mile abandoned railway corridor between St. Clairsville and Neffs.

The Clean Ohio grant application for this project was made in collaboration with Belmont County commissioners. Other grant possibilities are being pursued. The association is reaching out to neighboring counties in an effort to coordinate trail development and establish a regional trail network.

Doug Wayt, president of the Ohio Valley Trail Partners, introduced the guest speaker for the evening, Eric Oberg, trail development manager for the Midwest Regional Office of the national Rails to Trails Conservancy. Oberg’s powerpoint presentation highlighted the progress of establishing trails across the country. He summarized several studies that have been conducted over the years to determine economic benefits of trails.

One example was the Great Allegheny Passage/C & O Canal Pathway between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. A study that was completed in 2008 showed the initial investment in infrastructure for the entire length totaled $40 million.

Subsequent economic activity specific to the trail charted over a two-year period ending in 2008 equaled the investment amount.

Belmont County is a prime location for establishing connecting routes to some of the best known trails in the nation, including the Great Allegheny Passage, he said.